“Mean Girls,” Tina Fey’s 2004 fetch movie is now on Broadway, and the conductor is Rebekah Bruce Parker.
This 2005 Edmond Memorial High School graduate conducted her first Broadway play in New York two weeks ago at the August Wilson Theatre, and it will be running through Sunday, March 1.
She comes from a musical family. Her parents Gary and Jan Bruce still live in Edmond and are well-known musicians in the area.
A former member of Memorial’s Marching Band where she played the flute and piccolo, Parker graduated from Oklahoma Christian University and was a vocal and piano coach/professor at Oklahoma City University where she also completed her graduate degree, before she went to New York about a year ago.
“My mom says I was always interested in music,” Parker said. “I sang and clapped as a baby and would climb up to the piano before I knew how to play.
“I don't have any memories before I was singing or playing the piano. We started piano lessons at the beginning of kindergarten.”
Parker started playing piano and singing as a toddler, and also began studying the flute in 6th grade.
“I also spent 7th grade playing the oboe as well, but that was short lived,” Parker added. “I play a lot of percussion instruments as well.”
It was in middle school that Parker said she knew her calling.
“I think it was pretty clear by middle school that I would be working in music for a career,” Parker said. “There wasn’t a particular moment, but I was already doing a lot of the things I’m still doing today: teaching and performing music.”
PARKER’S CAREER BEGINS
But it was her college professor at OC, Dr. Ken Adams, who set her on her career path.
“Dr. Ken Adams brought to my attention the fact that I could really use a lot of my skills in musical theatre as a vocal coach and music director,” Parker said. “To be a music director on Broadway you have to be a natural leader, an excellent pianist, conduct an orchestra, know how to play every musical style, collaborate with respect and kindness, and work with singers and actors. That stuck with me because I've always refused to give up any of my various activities.”
Parker said she has a competitive, high-achieving nature and has always wondered about how her abilities would fare in New York.
“In every single thing I’ve ever done, from church Christmas pageants to high school choir to college jazz band, I wanted to level up. I always wanted more from everyone around me and wanted to be challenged.”
Parker said she expects greatness from herself and from others.
“New York City is Mecca for musicians,” Parker said. “I remember in middle school thinking about how I would want to go to Juilliard for college. I didn’t attend Juilliard, but I did make it to New York last year.”
ON TO NEW YORK
When she first arrived in New York she started out coaching singers — something she has done now for years. She had five to 10 students a week at first, but she found out that she had already built up a small network in NYC just from her work in Oklahoma.
“It was rough at first but she is so talented that she was hired first as a pianist, and then as a musical director for the Broadway play, “Mean Girls,” said family friend Mark Thomas, formerly of Edmond. “It takes lots of guts to move to New York and keep at it until you get hired on Broadway. She is a real professional and one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever known.”
Among the many things Parker attempted after her move to New York was playing classical piano for one church service, which was entirely in German.
“Luckily my opera experience allowed me to follow along. I also played for a couple of rehearsals for a middle school production of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’” Parker said. “I freelanced, which was pretty difficult. I also played auditions for Celebrity Cruises, where I work as a vocal director.”
Her parents, are both gifted musicians and music educators.
“My mom is a pianist and has taught piano for 40-plus years,” Parker said. “My dad is a piano technician, multi-instrumentalist, and singer. They both compose and teach as well.”
Her parents influenced her life in ways other than musically.
“My parents taught me to always be kind and respectful,” Parker said. “They also instilled a lot of self-discipline within me, that has made it possible for me to get a lot of hard work done.”
"MEAN GIRLS" UNDERWAY
Broadway shows can run for any length of time. At this time, it’s been open on Broadway for almost a year and a half. The tour is currently scheduled for a year, and if both continue to be successful, they will continue to run.
Kristin Baldwin from “Entertainment Weekly” said, “‘Mean Girls’ is not a regular musical. It’s a cool musical. A dazzling, hilarious marvel!”
“New York Magazine” writer Sara Holdren said, ‘“It is, hilarious! A smart, splashy new musical with immense energy and a wicked sense of humor. It’s witty, worldly and wise!”
With the Broadway show Parker worked in a variety of capacities.
“I played for hundreds of auditions and callbacks for replacements in the show,” Parker said. “I also played piano for rehearsals and taught music to new cast members. I played and conducted in the Broadway pit orchestra as well.”
“On the road I will be the Music Director, so I am responsible for conducting the show (and playing my keyboard part), rehearsing with new musicians in every city, and keeping things running smoothly,” Parker added. “Within the rehearsal process (which I’m in now for tour), if our composer Jeff Richmond or book writer Tina Fey needs to make a change, I help to implement it and make it happen quickly.”
As for future plans, Parker said the show is so complex and all-encompassing that it is hard to imagine adding anything else onto her plate, but she would like to see the musical come to Oklahoma City.
“I really hope that the ‘Mean Girls’ tour continues after the first year and comes to the Civic Center,” Parker said. “It’s a great show.”